CommGAP's second-born has arrived! Yesterday we launched the second book in our series on governance and reform, this one baptized Public Sentinel: News Media and Governance Reform (lovingly called "Sentinel" by all those who worked hard on getting this book published for the last year or so). Sentinel is edited by Harvard Kennedy School Professor Pippa Norris and is a collection of studies on whether and how the news media can support or even initiate significant reforms.
It often seems to me that in international development today a bifurcated reality exists when it comes to the potential or actual role of the news media in the governance agenda.
There is a fascinating story in this week's edition of The Economist ('Calling the shots' May 3rd 2008 page 72). It is about the media in India. Apparently, some top Indian newspapers are signing 'private treaties' with businesses. According to the story, the newspapers accept payment for ads in the form of shares in the advertiser's firm. The magazines very legitimate concern is that this increasingly popular practice is exposing Indian newspapers to growing conflict of interest... The magazine also quotes an India media activist , Sevanti Ninan, and he says this practice will "grow and grow in a media which anyway has little notion of conflict of interest." The great danger in a situation like that is that headlines will be bought and paid for without the public knowing who is doing the paying. The integrity of the newspapers in question will be greatly damaged if this is revealed, but the real problem is that the public will not know the truth and public opinion will be manipulated by hidden puppet masters.